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Fringe Online 2020

The Ruins of Empires


Genre: Contemporary, Fringe Online Performance, Political

Venue: BBC i player


Low Down

Over a number of chapters visually presented, social commentator, rap artist and poet Akala performs as the Knowledge Seeker looking to understand the nature of Empire, the building of these facades and corrupting influences of power that keep us under control. From taking his place at the foot of the Pyramids to be guided by the voice of authority that has a disembodied presence in front of him and us he is sped through the back history from the creation of man, a source of endemic racisms, the building of Empires throughout the world and how he, the Knowledge Seeker feels the power of both sides before he witnesses and is shown the uprisings that have toppled those Empires and are the beginning of their ruin.


Akala has become a go to guy for the debunking of myths around race. His ability to get to the heart of the matter and destroy the scaffolding of alt right theories about the dangers we face is all over YouTube. The polemic is however, at the surface of a deep and untroubled man who has thought, researched, challenged and understands how to take his rage and use it. Here he does so in a beautiful piece of poetic performance, from his own writing, that sings in words but punches hard in your conscience.

He has an engaging presence which draws you in with reason and sense but never loses sight of the mud in which he is battling to take out the ingredients of long held truths to expose them as lies and propaganda. The script has that simplistic beauty of truth wrapped up in the need to be heard. It is not a complex narrative, but a complex issue presented in a way that anyone can access and anyone can understand.

It does however have a complexity itself and therein we get the move from asking questions and seeking truth to answers that do not directly answer what is asked but guides the us as a Knowledge Seeker to the point where we begin to unravel the nature of our own questions – it is exceptional and cleverly done.

The performance is a truncated one and lasts for around half an hour. The pity is that there was not more to watch. The use of graphics which are more televisual than theatrical add to the experience and it means we have a more rounded sensory perception of the deception perpetuated on our histories. The soundscape, along with the well pitched voices of authority and revolution, similarly gives us the impression of a confident authority in itself. At times it does feel a little Dr Who but the message keeps us anchored.

This is a challenging piece that draws us in and asks the difficult questions whilst guiding us to question more. The ability to seek not to find an answer but to delve into an alternative history whilst also delivering the ideals of a new scaffolding of the past, a discussion that needs to be had at this time is vital. Akala has proven once again the vital part played not just by those who rise up and seek answers but also to those who should be questioned not just as to their motives but if the answers they seek are attached to the right questions.